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Page last updated on March 7, 2019 at 10:33 am

Good afternoon! It is heartwarming to look out over this sea of orange in observance of National Gun Violence Awareness Day.  Thank you to each of the members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America for the many hours you put into making this event possible.  Thank you for inviting me to speak today. I’m proud to be here with you all, wearing orange, and to read our Proclamation shortly. I’m proud our Transit Center is lit orange today for our whole community to see.

Welcome to the heart of downtown Bloomington. A beloved gathering spot for festivals, demonstrations, parades and picnics.  We come to this town square with our children, our friends and our loved ones. We honor veterans, hear music, eat food, enjoy arts and crafts, some of us stay up too late; we participate in democracy on this courthouse lawn. Town squares have been around since we humans began together living in communities for our greater good.  Places like this are part of our DNA. We need to gather together; to be part of our larger community.

So here we are. It feels right to be a part of this important event today, doesn’t it? We are here to talk about gun violence and what we can do to prevent more senseless deaths and injuries. We’re wearing orange - the color hunters wear to protect themselves in the woods. We know that every year 30,000 people die from guns. More than 90 deaths a day.  Suicides. Domestic violence. Gang shootouts. Bursts of rage combined with ready access to deadly force. Mass shootings. Accidents.

You recognize many infamous place names from just the past few years – places much like this where people gathered: Tucson.  Fort Hood. Binghamton. Aurora. Oak Creek. New town. The Navy Yard. Santa Barbara. Charleston. San Bernardino. Too many.

And the infamous names are just a small fraction of the despair that crashes without headlines into scores of families’ lives every day.

Many thousands of fellow Hoosiers have lost brothers and sisters, or buried their own children.  Many have had to learn to live with a disability, or learned to live without the love of their life. 

And it doesn’t have to be. That is why we are here.

President Obama said earlier this year:  “the United States of America is not the only country on Earth with violent or dangerous people.  We are not inherently more prone to violence.  But we are the only advanced country on Earth that sees this kind of mass violence erupt with this kind of frequency.  It doesn't happen in other advanced countries.  It’s not even close.” 

And he noted somehow we’ve become numb to the daily tragedy of gun violence. We’ve started thinking that this is normal. It is not normal. Americans are 25 times more likely to be murdered with guns than people in other developed countries. This is not the country we want to live in, and it needs to change. It will only change by actions like today.

Instead of thinking about how to reduce and solve the problem of gun violence, our politics and politicians seem to collapse on the issue. I heard someone once say there has been an outbreak of SPINE FLU. We need backbone, because without it the results are not just inconvenient or messy or frustrating or unfair; they are deadly. We need strong and steady voices, so that our country and our community match what the VAST majority of people want, with sensible gun laws and policies.

I’m not going to do a lot of the policy discussion today – you know the issues well. In February I asked that we try to talk about and do things together before, God forbid, a tragedy were to strike, and today’s rally and efforts are part of that. We need to work together and talk together in new ways. Of course we need comprehensive, effective background checks. And better mental health and addiction services. More efforts to prevent and respond to domestic violence. And we need as parents to get used to asking before a play date – do you have any weapons in the home? How are they stored? And maybe we should start asking at restaurants and other facilities, do you allow firearms on the premises? We certainly need to ask legislators and candidates, will you support common sense gun regulations and more research?

After Connecticut passed a law requiring background checks and gun safety courses, gun deaths decreased by 40 percent -- 40 percent.  Since Missouri repealed their law requiring comprehensive background checks and purchase permits, gun deaths have increased to almost 50 percent higher than the national average. And with more research, we could further improve gun safety. Just as we’ve reduced traffic deaths enormously over the last 30 years with research. And just as we research how to make food, medicine, even toys safer.  And guess what – not a surprise in a university community – research and science -- these are good things.  They work!  They do. And they will improve gun safety too.

If yesterday was a typical day in America, 90 families woke up today to a shattered new reality, with an awful hole in their hearts, due to gun violence. It doesn’t need to be this way. It shouldn’t be this way. It mustn’t be this way.

We’re here on this day, June 2nd, because of one such story, of Hadiya Pendleton, a Chicago teenager. We’re doing what we ought to do, by gathering, mobilizing, talking, encouraging, agitating, praying, hugging, voting, writing letters to the editor, tweeting, by wearing orange, by loving each other, and reminding ourselves that this is our country, our community, and we can make it better, bit by bit, family by family, every day.

Thank the organizers for making today happen. Thank you for being here today.  Thank you for being a part of this life-saving movement. Thank you for being such great Bloomingtonians.